But it’s hard to imagine one being more meaningful to a group of players than Henderson International’s softball team.
Sophomore Lee Harrison pitched a no-hitter with eight strikeouts to lead the Wolverines to a 9-0 win over Carlin in the Class 1A state title game Saturday at Bishop Manogue High.
It was likely the final athletic event in the history of the private high school, which is expected to close its doors at the end of the academic year.
“This moment is supposed to come when you’re a senior, the day when you realize that you have to separate from your friends,” said Harrison, fighting back tears. “Ours came early. It’s just good that we got to end it on a high note.”
Henderson International (30-4) led 4-0 after five innings before breaking the game open with a five-run sixth, highlighted by freshman Alex Battest’s three-run home run to center field.
Harrison issued just three walks to the Railroaders. She was mobbed in the circle by teammates flinging their gloves into the air after striking out Kayla Anthony to end the game.
“It was one of the best moments of my life,” Battest said. “I can’t even explain it. It’s something I’ll remember forever.”
Henderson International players went through a human tunnel of classmates and parents after receiving their state championship medals before embracing in teary-eyed hugs with one another.
It was part celebration, part goodbye.
“This is what we were working for before we found out we were closing,” Wolverines coach Mimie Hall said. “It’s such a bitter-sweet moment because it signifies that we’re the state champs, but it signifies that we’re done, too.”
The Wolverines learned in late February that Henderson International would cease to operate a high school beyond this year, citing the troubled economy and declining enrollment.
Though an effort remains to keep the school open, time is running out, and Hall said she expects the closure to go on as planned. Several athletes at the school have already mapped out plans to transfer.
On Saturday, however, the Wolverines relished their final game, capping a 55-6 run the past two years. The program played an independent schedule last year before joining the 1A Southern League this season.
“It feels surreal,” Harrison said. “We’ve been working for this for two years. We were coming out to win no matter what; we weren’t going to take ‘no’ for an answer.”
Battest and Brittany Huff had three hits each for the Wolverines, who played errorless defense despite occasional snow flurries.
All 16 players in the Wolverines’ program are underclassmen. They’ll now go their separate ways.
“Even though we’re not going to be a team next year, we’ll still be in each other’s hearts,” Battest said.
Carlin 7, Lake Mead 5 — The Railroaders scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 7-2 lead and held on to eliminate the Eagles in a losers’ bracket final.
Lake Mead (22-13-1) put the potential tying run at first base with no outs in the seventh, but Carlin (25-8) turned a double play to end the threat.
Jocelyn Cox went 3-for-4 and Samantha Herman was 2-for-2 for Lake Mead, which committed seven errors.
The Eagles earned the first state tournament victory in program history Friday with a 5-1 win over Carlin.
“Unfortunately, our defense, which has held us in games all year, we just kind of lost focus,” Lake Mead coach Kirk Pierzina said. “I don’t know what happened, but I’m real proud of the girls for this year.
“We had a great year. There were so many firsts we accomplished with this team.”
At Carson, Needles beat Lincoln County 13-11 in the losers’ bracket final before sweeping a doubleheader, 8-0 and 5-2, from Pershing County in the final round to capture the 2A state title.
Needles freshman Dakota Lillard pitched a three-hitter with nine strikeouts in the final game, in which the Mustangs (31-11) secured their fourth straight state title.
Heather Rowe’s two-run double to left-center field with one out in the bottom of the second inning gave the Mustangs the lead for good. Rowe finished 2-for-3.
In the first win over Pershing County (22-9), Needles’ Abby Chandler threw a four-hitter with six strikeouts. Alex Chandler and Amy Bailey both went 3-for-5 for the Mustangs.
In the losers’ bracket final against Lincoln County (29-6), Needles rallied from a 7-1 deficit after four innings with two runs in the fifth and five in both the sixth and seventh.
Abby Chandler hit a grand slam in the seventh, and teammates Haley Laswell (three hits), Bailey (three hits) and Alex Chandler also homered.